The Five Business Challenges That Keep a CEO Up at Night

The Five Business Challenges That Keep a CEO Up at Night

business-team-work-building-a-puzzle-buuilding-business-concept_fyIVd3RO-1024x683The National Sleep Foundation says that adults need about seven hours of sleep a night in order to feel rested. However, when you’re a CEO, sleep isn’t always on the agenda.

For example, take Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat. One of the most renowned automotive executives in the world, Sergio works on four hours of sleep a night, which isn’t an altogether uncommon practice for those who run a business. As a leader, your basic, day-to-day responsibilities probably fill up much of your 9-to-5 work day. However, your larger-scale responsibilities and concerns are also filling up your mind after 5p.m. and, more often than not, at bedtime.

CEOs often face business challenges that require more than a quick-fix meeting or phone call. Issues like potential declining profit margins or sales, non-performing employees, and finding (and keeping) the right talent aren’t always solvable “problems” but more like ever expanding puzzles that require constant attention.

The following are five business challenges that are keeping CEOs like you up at night:

  1. Innovation

Once you’re working with (and are seeing success with) an established business model, that doesn’t mean the hard work’s over. In fact, it’s just beginning. Consider professional basketball players for a moment: once they get into the NBA, a huge accomplishment, they still need to constantly expand their skill sets in order to stay on top of their game. If they don’t, younger, hungrier players will rise up to take their coveted spot on the team. As a CEO and business owner, you face the same challenge.

Companies these days have to work hard to stay relevant. With the rise of direct brand-to-audience marketing like social media and paid advertising, it’s not as difficult for a new, similar brand to pop up and compete with you. Disruptive innovation, a theory invented by Clayton Christensen, is a term used to describe innovations that create new markets by discovering new categories of customers. Think about the way you consume movies, for example: we have evolved from watching movies in theaters to streaming them wirelessly from our cell phones. The companies that made these advancements in technology possible for the masses before it was thought to even be possible disrupted — and won — the market.

“The thing that keeps [me] up at night [is] the idea that we have to constantly, constantly innovate and compete against not only the companies that have been in business for a long time, but also the very new ones that are up and coming,” says Dave Kearney, CEO of Boomerang. “We have to stay relevant, and we have to make sure that the choices we make today, and the technology that we’re releasing in the next year or so are going to be the technologies that people need and want, and are going to be coming across as better than the competition. “

This “innovator’s dilemma”, whether to continue running business as usual or to choose to expand your professional vision into unexplored and unstable territory, isn’t a decision a business takes lightly. That’s why taking small risks based on good hunches and creating new opportunities within the workplace, are constantly on a CEO’s mind.

  1. People

Amidst all of the computers, software, smartphones and other supporting technology in the workplace, the true stars of the show are your people. Smart CEOs know they can’t do it all alone, and there’s much emphasis placed on finding and cultivating high-performing talent.  And for a CEO, that means hiring employees who are living, breathing representations of, well, themselves.

Antwayne Ford, President and CEO of Enlightened, Inc. feels this pressure. “One of the things we do at Enlightened is try to make sure that our leaders have the same DNA as the executive management,” he says. “When I don’t have somebody who doesn’t have my DNA, that keeps me up at night. “

No matter what, investing in people – humans with complex emotions – can sometimes be a gamble.  That’s why finding smart, positive, motivated professionals who share the vision you have for your company and keeping them happy is an important part of the success of your business.

  1. Money

Worrying about money isn’t a privilege granted only to CEOs. But most folks who aren’t business owners aren’t worried about the company budget, declining profit margins and sales, or the need to reduce costs. Those particular concerns come with the responsibility of being the boss.

Antwayne Ford, who runs a technology consulting firm located in Washington, D.C. primarily focused on government contracting in the cyber security area, is constantly thinking about his budget for this year, next year and beyond. A differentiator from companies that aren’t project-based, Ford spends time analyzing how winning one contract could affect his dollars in years to come.

“That’s important, [because] we have to look at not where we are now, but we’re looking at budgets in the next two to three years, “he says. “You win a contract as an entity, [and] you’re thinking about the next contract immediately because you only have a number of years before you have to perform in other places. “

Regardless of your business model, managing money in a business can be complicated. A business can experience great, successful quarters in one market, and less exciting numbers in another. And with so many factors affecting the market, monetary stability has become a non-negotiable part of your business.

  1. Keeping the Peace

It’s one thing to have to smooth the waters every once in a while in your own company, but some CEOs and business owners get an extra helping of playing peacemaker, especially within companies that rely on other companies for the success of their business.

Jenny Rosoff is the CEO of Village Green Foods, a government-regulated wholesale food manufacturer located in Irvine, California. In total, Village Green Foods makes about 150 different products for about 30 different clients. Rosoff’s company relies heavily on other groups playing nice in order for her business to bloom. “We have USDA and FDA in and out of our plant regularly. When the government’s not functioning well, neither are our inspectors nor are their agencies,” she says.

If you think it’s hard to keep one business running smoothly, imagine being negatively impacted every time another business hits a rough patch. That’s why keeping the peace, and taking the time to really understand and communicate with every kind of partner in your business, is vital to your professional relationships, both in-house and otherwise.

  1. Customers

Even though a CEO might not be physically involved with the production of their product or available during every customer meeting, ensuring customer happiness isn’t very far from a CEO’s mind.

Take Jenny Rosoff, whose company doesn’t manufacture a product that is used or owned — It’s actually eaten and consumed by the buyer. And for Rosoff, that’s one of the most intimate – and scary – things that you can do.

“I wake up at night wondering … if everybody’s following the protocols that we’ve put in place to make sure that everything’s functioning well,” she says. “[In] 24 years, I haven’t had it happen yet, knock on wood. I don’t ever want to get that call saying that something that we made somebody sick.”

What business challenges are keeping you up at night? Take our brief survey, find out what keeps others like you from getting their eight hours.


Cerius Executives have successfully helped small, start-up ventures to Fortune 100, overcome their most challenging business problems.  For more information, please go to or call us at (888) 565-5289.


Annie O'Grady


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